Getting a Closer Look at Marques’ Career, and What Could Have Been
Hi Bucks’ fans! Welcome to the all-time top Bucks’ draft picks, power ranked by the fan’s yourselves. We are counting down all the way from #12 to #1, and today we are moving on to our current broadcaster, Marques Johnson.
Marques Johnson was the third selection in the 1977 NBA Draft by the Milwaukee Bucks, out of UCLA. According to basketball reference, Marques Johnson is the second best player in the draft class based on win-shares, trailing only Jack Sikma.
Marques Johnson was a five-time All-Star, on the All-NBA First Team in 1979, and the Second Team the two following years. He was the 1986 Comeback Player of the Year, and his number “8” was recently retired by the Bucks. It’s also impressive that he never averaged less than 16 points per game in a season, excluding the season after his two he spent injured.
CAREER SUCCESS AND “WHAT-IF’S”
I’ll get the bad/sad stuff out of the way with Marques first. He had many injuries, but he had a neck injury with the Clippers in the 1987 season that essentially ended his career. He missed the 1988 and 1989 seasons as well, and tried to make a comeback with the Warriors in 1990 but fell short and retired. It was a rough way to go out, no doubt about it.
But, with the Bucks he put up some All-Star worthy numbers, and helped lead the Bucks to become dangerous in the 1980‘s. He put up a career-high 25.6 PPG en route to being on the First Team All-NBA, and his consistency as an all-around basketball player would prove very valuable for the Bucks as they attempted to regain footing post-Abdul-Jabbar. His top four similarity scores through 11 seasons goes to Anthony Mason, Anthony Davis, Elton Brand and Ben Wallace per basketball reference. Not bad company.
In all but the 1979 season which he won his First Team honor, Marques helped lead the Bucks into the postseason every year he was on the team. He also had some nice years with the Clippers too, but aside from the injuries he suffered, nothing that memorable occurred out there when looking at his career. The likes of Marques, Sidney Moncrief, Junior Bridgeman and others helped the Bucks consistently be one of the better teams in the NBA, and one of the most underrated runs in NBA history (due to never making it to the Finals in the 80’s).
If Marques hadn’t been traded, that would have meant that Terry Cummings, Ricky Pierce and Craig Hodges would not have come to Milwaukee. If we do a straight up comparison of Cummings and Johnson during those seasons, Cummings seemingly had a greater affect for the Bucks than Johnson did with the Clippers (coming from someone who was over a decade from being born when the trade happened). If you look at career totals, Cummings was way worse after the 1992-93 season, and that influences kind of how his numbers look overall compared to Marques. Either way, I don’t think it really would have made much of a difference if we had Marques/Bridgeman or Cummings/Pierce/Hodges, and the regular season records and postseason results back that up.
I think a bigger part of where he is going to be remembered is his role as the main color commentator for the Bucks during the Giannis-era than as a player. Since Jon McGlocklin retired, Marques took over and has done a nice job for the Bucks, and got to be part of the team that brought the title back to Milwaukee in 2021. I think his return to the franchise in the mid 2010‘s really brought back some of the highlights and rememberance of how good he was for this team, because he really seemed like the “forgotten Buck.” Back then, I hadn’t heard of him, but I knew of Moncrief, Paul Pressey, Cummings, Pierce, Jack Sikma, Bridgeman, and others. But not MJ. When he joined with Gus Johnson, I was ashamed that the Bucks hired Gus Johnson, but aside from that, I had no clue who the guy was. I’m glad he’s made a comeback in Milwaukee and him returning has really re-cast a light onto a great career that ended abruptly and in terrible fashion, so hopefully he can continue to be a great broadcaster for the Bucks as they continue to have success with Giannis and possibly beyond.
There you have it, Marques Johnson. Now on to the top 5, who’s coming in at number 5? Vote and comment below!
This poll will close at 10 am central, June 15.